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Multiplicity as a Resource

Multiplicity as a Resource

“Worldmaking as we know it always starts from worlds already on hand; the making is a remaking. Just what worlds are to be recognized as actual is quite another question. Even what may seem like severely restrictive views, each may recognize countless versions as equally right”. As described by American philosopher Nelson Goodman, relativism is a theoretical concept in which a single object can be subjected to multiple view points, all of which result from an individual’s cognitive bias, all of which can be measured and interpreted as equally valid. Descriptive relativism assumes certain cultural groups may have different modes of thought and standards of reasoning. Typically, it is the anthropologist’s task to describe, but not evaluate, the validity of the principles and practices of a cultural group. The anthropologist’s descriptive account of relativism helps to separate fixed, or commonly shared, aspects of human nature from those that can vary. This allows a descriptive claim to be developed, highlighting the perceptual differences that are drawn from different backgrounds. The urban architect’s practice is informed by a myriad of spatial, political and socio-economic facets of life, as well as their impact on the subject’s perception of his or her built environment. Similar to the anthropologist, the architect’s descriptive account of relativism can define multiple perceptions to better understand certain aspects of human spatial experience, and their unique characteristics. However, here is where the architect must diverge from the definitional limitations of anthropological relativism, to actually evaluate, assess and prioritize perceptions into a productive dialectic that can shape the future of the built urban environment.

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